Accolade Health Care buys two Paxton nursing homes, one in Pontiac

PAXTON — When Moe Freedman calls in his reservation to the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites, the clerk answering the phone always recognizes his voice.

“They’re like, ‘Hey, Moe,’ before I even say my name,” the 30-year-old Chicago man said.

Such familiarity abounds not just because the hotel on Paxton’s west side prides itself in getting to know its clients. It’s also because Freedman stays there so often.
Freedman stays at the newly built 41-room hotel up to four days a week. His room actually serves as the headquarters for his new company, Accolade Health Care.

When Freedman founded the company earlier this year after working for the past seven years as a nursing home administrator in Chicago, he decided to acquire three nursing homes in Central Illinois, including two in Paxton.

On Aug. 2, Freedman bought the Paxton Health Care & Rehab facility at 1240 N. Market St. in Paxton as well as the Pontiac Health Care & Rehab facility in the Livingston County seat. Then, on Nov. 1, he bought the Illinois Knights Templar Home at 450 Fulton St. in Paxton.

Managing three nursing homes with no permanent headquarters has meant that Freedman, at least recently, has been downstate more often than he has been with his wife and three children in Chicago. Splitting his time between Paxton and Pontiac, Freedman has been staying on most weeknights at the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites — and he loves it.

“The mayor (Bill Ingold) gave me a tour right before (the hotel’s construction) was done (in September), and I was so excited because I was living (at the time) out of Champaign and it was so annoying to not be able to really, you know, be here while here,” Freedman said.

Like the communities his three nursing homes are located in, Freedman’s company is small — and he strives to operate it like a small business, not a big corporation.

“It’s going to go back to the roots of the way nursing homes should feel like they’re being run,” Freedman said.

Freedman said he will be a hands-on manager and be involved in each of his facilities. He said his commitment to making his new business venture a success should be evident by the sacrifices he is making in his personal life.

“I live up in Chicago with my wife and three kids, but we’re committed to being down here, to me making the sacrifice of being away from home all week,” Freedman said. “I’m committed in every way, shape and form to being down here, to be present, to getting to understand the city of Paxton and what it needs and its nuances. Towns like Paxton are very special in that there’s a certain sense of community and pride that you can’t dictate from (suburban) Skokie or Chicago.”

Already, Freedman has made some positive changes at his two Paxton nursing homes. One of the first things he did was give pay raises to most staff members at both the former Illinois Knights Templar Home, now known as Accolade Health Care of Paxton Senior Living, and the former Paxton Health Care & Rehab facility, now known as Accolade Health Care of Paxton.

“It was something that I thought if we were going to stay competitive on a staffing level, it needed to be addressed, and we did that Day 1,” Freedman said.

While pay raises can help retain or attract quality employees, Freedman said he is “not a person who throws money at a problem” and nothing else. Freedman said he also is taking measures to make sure his staff — totaling about 120 to 130 employees between the two Paxton facilities — has the “tools to do their jobs right.”

“We’re continuing to put a lot of money into just making sure we’re outfitted, getting the staff the tools necessary to where they are able to care for the residents properly without hurting themselves,” Freedman said.

That includes making sure his facilities have enough “sit-to-stands,” for example, so that no staff member has to physically lift a patient by hand.

“We’re a no-lift facility, so we’re ensuring the safety of the residents as well as the staff at the same time,” Freedman said.

Freedman said both facilities already had the proper equipment, but he said it was not being kept up to date and there was a shortage of equipment.

Over the next couple of months, there will be a lot of “internal changes that people won’t necessarily see,” Freedman added.

“The priority is, first and foremost, giving our staff and residents the tools necessary to be safe and do it right and efficiently,” Freedman said. “The next phase is going to be (improving the) aesthetics (of the facilities) — remodeling and updating things.”

Part of the aesthetic improvements will be reducing the amount of “clutter” in each facility to help “simplify things for the nurses.”

“They’re stuck working by the nurse station with all of this junk they don’t need anymore, and it just takes up space and it makes it harder to stay organized and focused,” Freedman said. “At all the facilities, it’s just years of clutter built up. I want to just get to the foundation of each building and understand what each one’s specific strengths are and accentuate them.”

A revamped “dining experience” is in the works, too — one that Freedman said is “unprecedented in this region.” Multiple menu items will be offered each day at both Paxton facilities, and not just at designated times of the day. Freedman said he has outsourced his dietary department to a company that specializes in food, allowing residents’ family members the option of ordering food online at each facility so they can eat with residents at any time of the day.

“In the industry as a whole, we’re so focused on nursing that sometimes we forget about the whole dining experience — we just try to follow policy and procedure,” Freedman said. “I’m spending about $100,000 more a year just because it’s that important to me to make sure that we have an incredible and unique dining experience where it’s almost restaurant-style.”

Residents may also see more educational programs at the Paxton facilities. For example, Freedman said he plans to regularly have programs on such topics as end-of-life decisions, for example.

“And we’ll be doing a little more community events, both internally and externally, as they come about,” Freedman said.

Also, Freedman said that eventually he plans to “really enhance our independent-living and assisted-living atmosphere” at the Fulton Street nursing home, calling it a “huge need in the region.”

Freedman said he is also putting in place at the two Paxton facilities “a lot of different things that the industry had but no one was acknowledging in this region.”

“For instance, there’s something called tele-medicine, where all our nurses have iPads, tablets, so that 24 hours a day, they can video with a physician or nurse practitioner in real time,” Freedman said. “If they see a change in condition with a resident, or there’s maybe a rash or something or some skin issue that they need the doctor to visually look at, being in a rural area, sometimes it’s hard to get physicians out here to come look at the residents. ... This (tele-medicine) is something that CMS, which is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, has incentivized, and we’re taking advantage of it. We have it already in place, but most facilities in this region don’t have it yet.

“All of the stuff I’ve learned in Chicago I’m bringing here. All of the stuff they have there, there’s no reason we can’t have it here.”

Freedman admits that he has “a lot to prove,” but he is ready for the challenge.

“I know that both facilities (in Paxton) had their issues with management not being hands-on as much, but we’re going to take it back to the way it should be,” Freedman said.

Eventually, Freedman said, he hopes that he won’t need to be around the facilities as often as he is today. That means he can save on his hotel bills and spend more of his time with his family.

“There will be a time where I build a strong enough team to where people can do that job and I don’t have to worry that my vision is not going to come to fruition, but it’s going to take time,” Freedman said. “But for the time being, I’m committed to making sure I don’t leave here until I feel like it’s going in the direction where I can come down every week but I don’t always have to be here four nights out of a week.”

People who have questions, suggestions or ideas for Freedman are encouraged to email them to suggestions@accoladehc.com.

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ellendo wrote on December 10, 2017 at 8:12 am